Rugby News 2014 Shute Shield Team of the Year
Last season’s inaugural Rugby News Team of the Year was a massive success and it’s that time of the year again.
The 2013 team (http://bit.ly/1sOFMHn) included the eventual Ken Catchpole Medallist, the season’s top-point scorer and a host of players who have since gone on to bigger and better things in Super Rugby, Sevens and overseas.
Like 2013, this was not a task undertaken lightly. Collectively, Jim Davis, Terry Smith, Paul Cook, Felicity Nethery and myself watched upwards of four games a weekend over the last four and a half months. We talk to coaches, players and administrators from all 12 sides in the competition on a regular basis and have written about every club on numerous occasions.
To be eligible for selection, players must have played a decent number of games this season. Five or six isn’t enough. This disqualified plenty of Super Rugby players who turned out for a few club games as well as various other age-group and Sevens representatives.
There were no restrictions or quotas on the number of players from each club. We make no apologies for this. We wanted to select the best side possible.
There were a few no-brainers, a couple of majority decisions and plenty of lengthy debate over a few selections. Only two players in last year’s starting side retained their spot.
The Shute Shield is the best club competition in the country and produces more Super Rugby and Wallaby talent than anywhere else. However, we know the lay of the land, and not everyone is going to agree with this team. We’d expect nothing less and look forward to your feedback.
That being said, here’s the side.
Props – Duncan Chubb & Tim Metcher
Tough to separate the two Southern Districts bookends and they’ve been the cornerstone of the Rebels’ fearsome scrum for the last two seasons. After a rough run of injuries a couple of years back, loosehead Chubb has established himself as one of the best props in the competition and earned a promotion from the bench to the starting side for RN’s Team of the Year in 2014.
Tim Metcher was almost unrecognisable at the start of the season after shedding his distinctive dreads but his reputation as the best front-row scrummager going around means he gets the nod for a second year running. While Chubb is out to make an impact on the NRC, Metcher has been signed by the Melbourne Rebels for next season.
Hooker – Hugh Roach
If it meant advancing the ball or making a tackle, this guy would run into – and through – a brick wall…three or four times…and still get up wanting more. His lineout throwing is spot on, he’s a fearless runner and has come on in leaps and bounds since he began training fulltime with the Waratahs.
Locks – Jared Barry and Greg Peterson
Jared Barry and Greg Peterson power the engine rooms of their respective sides. They’re both huge, carry the ball well and are efficient operators at the lineout. Peterson captained the Marlins for a spell in the middle of the season while Barry is a less talk, more action type of player who stops opposition ball-runners in their tracks.
They should both feature in the up-coming NRC season with Barry at the Rams and Peterson at the Rays.
Blindside Flanker – Harry Bergelin
With a try-scoring strike-rate of over 100%, how could you not have Bergelin – the season’s top try-scorer – in your side? Although he says most of his 20 tries were simple put-downs, the dynamic back-rower was consistently in the thick of it and managed to cement a place in Phil Blake’s big forward pack.
Openside Flanker – Kieran Black
The Kiwi back-rower appeared as if from nowhere this season. He can sniff out trouble at the ruck, whacks guys on defence and seems to always be available to take an offload. Along with Jed Holloway and the two props, Black is an integral part of what has been a great Southern Districts forward pack all year.
No. 8 – Jed Holloway
Jed Holloway will play heaps of Super Rugby. Count on it (no pressure, Jed). A born leader, he’s laid-back off the field but a no-nonsense workhorse on it. The passion Holloway has for rugby and Southern Districts was on show after the Rebels upset Uni last weekend and he walked from the field with tears in his eyes. “Nah, just a bit of dust,” he said. Nice try.
Halfback – Josh Holmes
One of only two players to keep his spot in the starting side from last year, Holmes was instrumental in the Rats’ resurgence this season. With a big frame and blistering turn of pace, Holmes is a menace around the breakdown and regularly puts tired opposition forwards to the test. Deserved his brief call-up to the Melbourne Rebels and, more recently, to the Waratahs’ Sevens side for tournaments in Limerick and London.
Flyhalf – Hamish Angus
Plenty of competition for this spot but Warringah’s Hamish Angus, this season’s top-point scorer, gets the nod. The 2012 Ken Catchpole Medal winner is a level-headed leader who steers an exciting side around the paddock. He can unleash his backline with a killer long-range pass, he organises the pack well in conjunction with Holmes and has kicked some ridiculous conversions.
Inside-centre – Tom Carter
Ironically, this has probably been Tom Carter’s best season in years. The Sydney Uni stalwart is still his straight-running, high-energy self, but added a few more elements to his game in 2014. He got a few offloads away, his passing game is excellent and he stood up as a leader in a young Uni side this season.
Outside centre – Tom Hill
Huge, fast and fearless, Tom Hill is a big metre eater for Eastwood and consistently gets them over the gain-line. We shifted him from his customary 12 jersey to outside centre, but still think he’d have a massive impact.
Wings – Henry Clunies-Ross & James Dargaville
These two speedsters scored a combined 33 five-pointers, with Dargaville finishing second on the try-scoring table with 19 and Clunies-Ross fifth-equal.
Clunies-Ross is slightly smaller than his Uni teammate but there’s talk around the grounds he’s the fastest player in the comp. With his socks around his ankles, you can’t miss Dargaville and he’s got Super Rugby written all over him.
Fullback – Dave Feltscheer
Voted the best pound for pound player in the Shute Shield in a Rugby News poll earlier this season, Feltscheer is lightning with the ball and courageous in defence. He had a hand in most of Warringah’s dangerous backline moves and it was his show-and-go that led to arguably the try of the season in the second Northern Beaches derby.
David Porecki – There aren’t many harder working players in the Shute Shield. A strong runner and excellent scrummager who is able to pack down at hooker or prop, bigger things await.
Toa Asa – You don’t want to be standing in Toa’s way when he gets up a head of steam. The Randwick big-unit is a brutal cleanout man and can also spot a pilfer when it’s on.
Sam Talakai – Really stood out in a Uni front-row that seemed to change from week to week. Has jumped at the chance to have a crack at the Reds by joining the Brisbane City NRC side.
Andrew Clyne – Another workhorse in the Eastwood pack, Clyne is a typically understated forward but his teammates and opposition certainly notice his efforts.
Marcus Carbone – Able to play lock and back-row, Carbone suffered through injury over the last couple of years but has been outstanding for Southern Districts this season. Has been signed by the Rams and will play his first ever Grand Final this weekend.
Mick Snowden – Great pass, quick around the edges and brave for a little bloke, Snowden will vie with Brendan McKibbin for the number nine jersey at the NSW Country Eagles.
Jai Ayoub – Had a big task replacing Pierre Hola at Eastwood, but flourished into a creative playmaker with the backing of coach, John Manenti.
Jerome McKenzie – A highlight at the foot of the mountains, it’s hard to believe this is McKenzie’s first season in the 15-man code after switching from league. Straight into the Rams squad.
Since we’ve come this far, we might as well round-out the side with a group of Extended Playing Squad contracts. Some of these guys would have made the team but just didn’t get enough game time to edge the starters. Others are just bubbling under.
Tristan Goodbody, Sakaria Noa, Sam Ward, Malietoa Hingano, Dane Chisholm.